Critical Role Critical Role Episode #26 - spoilers!

Hmm, but what about the other foot? What would you say if a player said “because of XYZ i’m going to have advantage on attacks and skill checks for the duration?”

If it’s OK in the one case is it OK in the other?
I have players try to justify as advantage all the time.

“I stand on the table anencephaly leap off. Is that enough to give me advantage?” “I’m filled with fury defending the child from the goblin. Does that give me advantage?” “That orc is standing in slippery mud. Is that enough to give me advantage?”
Sometimes I’ll say “no”. But sometimes I’ll say “yes”.
Which is exactly like what happens when the players asked to give themselves disadvantage and the DM said “yes.”
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Harzel

Adventurer
One point of order:
- Ms. Burch is Ashly, without the 'e'.
- Ms. Johnson is Ashley, with the 'e'.

Second: I assume most know about Talks Machina, their 'after-show'. If you care enough to invest the hour to watch it, it can be revelatory, particularly when something dramatic happens about which there are questions.

As to the specifics of the OP:

It seems the recap posts have stopped else I would have posted this as a comment there.

But I have a couple of things I'd like to discuss about the episode, so expect spoilers!

Thing #1 - Keg's rolling at disadvantage. I felt like this kind of blindsided the group and was not necessarily foreshadowed enough. Perhaps I missed it in the lead up - but I do think Keg should have been a lot more trepidatious about the encounter so that her immediate panic would have made more sense in context. I also think Ashley should have made Keg at least attempt to overcome her fear by making a charisma save (perhaps DC 20 to illustrate how hard it is for her character to overcome her fear). Making her frightened by fiat made it seem more of a screwjob. (Note: I don't want to make this into a pile on to Ashley. I thought she was a fun player that participated with gusto. :) I'm more interested in how others might have handled that development).

Link to the relevant bit: https://youtu.be/BXFTboNHtE8?list=PL7atuZxmT955Cw-fFS-_3IQvaCpQgDzWA&t=15720

Handled as a player or as a DM? (All your commentary here seems to be about what Ashly did, but most of the subsequent discussion seems to be focused on the DM response.)

As a player, I'm not sure I can say, since I'm not sure I would have thought of doing what Ashly did. As far as foreshadowing goes, I'm guessing Ashly didn't think in advance about how Keg would react to being in combat with Lorenzo, and I'm willing to take that as representing that Keg didn't really think that far ahead either. It is not uncommon for people to react differently to the reality of a circumstance very differently than they do to the anticipation of that circumstance.

As a DM, if the players were like the CR cast, I would do pretty much what Matt did - go with the suggestion. If the players were more like my players, I would have a short conversation with the player to understand what they were really trying to get at, but I would probably end up in the position - ok, I'll take account of what you are telling me about your character's mental state, but you just tell me what you do and I will decide on the mechanics. The mechanics decision would depend on the particulars of the case.

Thing #2 - Molly's death. Did I miss it or were there no death saving throws made? Matt just said "Molly's dead" and that was it? Is this a homebrew rule? I have to think that this was pre-arranged (at least the possibility, and acceptability, was agreed upon before the session), otherwise this characters death was quite perfunctory.

Link to the relevant bit: https://youtu.be/BXFTboNHtE8?list=PL7atuZxmT955Cw-fFS-_3IQvaCpQgDzWA&t=16631

The matter of the death saving throws has been pretty well addressed. As to the death being pre-arranged, I don't see any evidence of that in the stream, and what was said on the subsequent Talks Machina made it quite clear that it was quite unexpected by Taliesin. And in fact that the death was 'perfunctory' as you say seems to me to weigh heavily against it being pre-arranged. I mean, if you were going to arrange it, wouldn't you arrange to make it a bit more heroic?

As to the details, I will add that Matt did say that Lorenzo was going to make two glaive strikes on Molly and made two dice rolls, but he skipped his usual practice of announcing what he rolled. Also he usually asks the player either what the PC's AC is, or if the announced roll hits and he didn't do that either. That departure certainly confused me in the moment - I had to rewatch the sequence to see that he actually did roll the dice. So I can understand being left with the sense that Matt just narrated the death, but that is not what really happened.

My speculation: AFAIK, Matt relies on the players to track their HP. So when he announced Lorenzo's intentions, probably all he knew was that Molly was hurt and might get knocked down. In the course of 12 real-time seconds, Molly knocked himself out and Matt rolled two numbers that he knew were hits, which changed the situation to Molly is dead. At that point, I think Matt was just trying to focus on finding an at least somewhat meaningful narration and figuring out whether Lorenzo was going kill them all.

Thing #3 - Not a TPK. Given how on the ropes the party was it could have easily ended as a TPK. Matt dialed it back and made them witnesses to Lorenzo's brutality. Which is fine and well within the DMs purview. But it also supports my theory that Molly's death was pre-planned - otherwise Taleisin would feel even more screwed over (he could have been added to the prisoners instead).

Link to the relevant bit: https://youtu.be/BXFTboNHtE8?list=PL7atuZxmT955Cw-fFS-_3IQvaCpQgDzWA&t=17536

My biggest puzzlement is Thing #2. That seemed quite strange! :)

Edit: added links to the parts in question

On TM, Matt said that without Keg stepping in, any of the M9 that did not flee would have died, even if that meant a TPK. I think it is a fair speculation that at least subconsciously Matt was probably 'very open' to the remaining party members finding a plausible way to survive, and Ashly provided one.

At the time, Lorenzo thought he was full up with prisoners (mentioned in the abduction scene in previous episode), not realizing he had just flash-frozen three of them (oops).

I think Taliesin was sad and upset, but not in the sense of feeling screwed. Molly was very much a part of his own undoing.
 

Harzel

Adventurer
I'm curious whether we've seen the last of Molly or if we'll see a new party member.

Unless there is an elaborate ruse being played out, Taliesin has created a new character, and Matt has a notion of how to introduce him/her/it into the campaign. However, the remnants of the M9 are poking around for a way to rez Molly, although they have other items on their plate and circumstances seem to weigh heavily against their succeeding in bringing Molly back. If, against all odds, they succeed, maybe we'll wind up with another Scanlan/Taryon situation. I'm sure Sam would be delighted to finagle the RP so that Taliesin was forced to have a conversation with himself.
 

Harzel

Adventurer
As for the encounter - They're 5th level. They faced off against what appears to be a level 9+ Hexblade (which would be CR 3), a level 5+ wizard (CR 2), a druid, 2 thugs and a barbarian. If the barbarian and druid were also 5th level-ish (CR 2) and the thugs were MM thugs (CR 1/2), the encounter would have been under the threshold for a deadly encounter (2250 xp versus 2750 for deadly). It was not an unfair encounter based upon abilities exhibited.

Well, several things...
  1. Lorenzo: Matt has been pretty coy about Lorenzo's abilities, but some things he has said kinda sorta imply that Lorenzo is not a level 9 equivalent. That said, if he were level-9-Hexblade-ish, CR 3 seems a bit low. (The MM Mage is a 9th level spellcaster and it is CR 6.) Taking those things together, though, let's go for a lower bound and go ahead and say CR 3.
  2. The NPC that Keg thought was a 'sorcerer', which I assume is where 'wizard' came from, actually turned out to be a bard, but that probably doesn't make any big difference. In addition to the bard, druid, and barbarian, there was also a rogue (Prado). The assumption that they were all level 5-ish seems ok, though, and CR 2 is certainly not an overestimate. So that's 4 x CR 2.
  3. The thugs: ok, we'll go with 2 x CR 1/2, although my suspicion is that Matt built them meaner than that.
  4. Raw XP total: 700 + (4x450) + (2x100) = 2700.
  5. Adjusted XP total: You neglected the number-of-opponents multiplier. Per the guidelines for 7 opponents vs. 5 PCs, the multiplier would be 2.5. Since 5 is the upper limit for 'normal' PC party size and 7 is just barely over the line between multipliers of 2 and 2.5, I suppose you could argue it down to 2. I'll do the calculation with both - so either 5400 or 6750.
  6. Difficulty thresholds: I have no idea where the 2750 for deadly came from. From the table, for 5 5th-level PCs, I get 5x750 = 3750 for Hard and 5x1100 = 5500 for Deadly. So 5400/6750 is Just-Below-Deadly/Deadly-Plus-a-Bit.
  7. Mitigating: It seems that most folks think that the DMG guidelines overestimate encounter difficulty at least somewhat. FWIW, this comports with my experience.
  8. Aggravating: 3/5 of the PCs (Beau, Molly, Keg) had no ranged capability to speak of, whereas all the opponents, excepting perhaps the barbarian, did have ranged attacks. That's a significant problem, especially outdoors. Had the battle lasted longer, this likely would have become a severe disadvantage for the M9.

Overall, it seems to me that M9 had a very slim chance of beating the Iron Shepherds in a straight up combat encounter. I really think Lorenzo is probably at least CR 4, and just that adjustment takes it solidly into Deadly territory.

Matt's comments: So far, they seem a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, when talking about the Iron Shepherds, he says the are designed to be a "very dangerous group", and talked about how (in his view) he offered up hints that attacking them "could possibly be very bad". On the other hand, when talking about the actual encounter and its outcome he has more than anything else mentioned unlucky dice rolls. I guess those could possibly be consistent somehow, but for me it doesn't produce a very clear picture of his view.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Well, several things...
  1. Lorenzo: Matt has been pretty coy about Lorenzo's abilities, but some things he has said kinda sorta imply that Lorenzo is not a level 9 equivalent. That said, if he were level-9-Hexblade-ish, CR 3 seems a bit low. (The MM Mage is a 9th level spellcaster and it is CR 6.) Taking those things together, though, let's go for a lower bound and go ahead and say CR 3.


  1. Lorenzo is almost certainly an Oni, the glaive, the fighting ability and the cone of cold made me almost certain last week. I Believe it was confirmed this week, though I couldn't make it through the whole episode and heard it from someone else.

    That puts him at a CR7 himself. The M9 in their weakened state would have had a tough time against him on his own.

    And he wasn't alone, he had a full party as backup to the point where they outnumbered the M9. It was a deadly encounter and frankly they're lucky to escape with one death.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Matt's comments: So far, they seem a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, when talking about the Iron Shepherds, he says the are designed to be a "very dangerous group", and talked about how (in his view) he offered up hints that attacking them "could possibly be very bad". On the other hand, when talking about the actual encounter and its outcome he has more than anything else mentioned unlucky dice rolls. I guess those could possibly be consistent somehow, but for me it doesn't produce a very clear picture of his view.

Certainly Beau's failure to stun the druid didn't help - and that was all down to the dice. And with both Keg and Nott effectively not fighting they were quite short handed.

It was gripping stuff.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Well, several things...
...
Yes, I forgot the rogue. My math was correct based upon what I said I thought the party was... but it does escalate up to 'decently into deadly' with the correct composition, assuming the druid an rogue were 5th level. However, it was not twice the deadly budget or anything - a tough, but winnable fight, especially with a surprise round. The real problem was how many actions were not spent hampering the enemy. Matt's encounter was not ridiculous was my point.

And check XGtE for the CR guidance - a 11 HD Warlock is CR 4, there. Lorenzo should be a bit weaker.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Yes, I forgot the rogue. My math was correct based upon what I said I thought the party was... but it does escalate up to 'decently into deadly' with the correct composition, assuming the druid an rogue were 5th level. However, it was not twice the deadly budget or anything - a tough, but winnable fight, especially with a surprise round. The real problem was how many actions were not spent hampering the enemy. Matt's encounter was not ridiculous was my point.

And check XGtE for the CR guidance - a 11 HD Warlock is CR 4, there. Lorenzo should be a bit weaker.

There are a lot of assumptions but if I'm correct and Lorenzo himself was a CR 7 then the encounter XP was in the 7,100 range.

A deadly encounter for 5 characters is 5,500 - so doable but with difficulty - though adjusting for the number of foes (5 vs. 7) it's really much worse than that and dips into double the deadly territory, though the surprise round could be said to overcome that.

However:

The M9 were actually only 3 strong. Keg was a total non factor (well until she saved the day) and Not was also completely out of the fight. A deadly encounter for 3 PCs of 5th is 3,300 and up, even with the surprise round they PCs were in massive trouble. This one's not on Matt though, he can't control for 1 party member voluntarily being out of the fight and another being a non-factor. And as he said himself (this was the first time I caught Talks Machina) this was a great learning experience for the party - failure sometimes teaches more than success!
 

jgsugden

Legend
There are a lot of assumptions but if I'm correct and Lorenzo himself was a CR 7 then the encounter XP was in the 7,100 range.
Again, look at the XGtE VGtM at the Warlock of the Archfey.

11 HD. 1 6th level spell and 3 5th level slots. Clearly based upon an 11th level Warlock. CR 4. This reflects the modern valuation as applied in a recent book to the specific class in question, rather than the valuation placed at the start of the edition on 'monster' builds for other classes. As we posit that Lorenzo is 9th rather than 11th, CR 3 or 4 would seem to be appropriate. The Warlock of the Fiend has an error on the hit points, but it built off a 17th level warlock spellcaster. It is CR 7. Now, it is possible Lorenzo is 17th level - we saw nothing that ruled this out... but that seems unlikely.

And as for your 'three strong', had Matt known that Not and Keg would be 'offline' for the combat, then you'd build for three PCs... but as far as he knew, he was building for 5. My point is that he built a reasonable, but tough, challenge. With surprise and good tactics, it was very winnable (assuming we have the right power levels for the bad guys in mind).

If they start with a stun, stab, and spell on Lorenzo, he likely never gets off a spell or attack (again, assuming he is ~9th level).
 
Last edited:

MarkB

Legend
However:

The M9 were actually only 3 strong. Keg was a total non factor (well until she saved the day) and Not was also completely out of the fight. A deadly encounter for 3 PCs of 5th is 3,300 and up, even with the surprise round they PCs were in massive trouble. This one's not on Matt though, he can't control for 1 party member voluntarily being out of the fight and another being a non-factor. And as he said himself (this was the first time I caught Talks Machina) this was a great learning experience for the party - failure sometimes teaches more than success!

To be fair, Nott's plan was not completely unreasonable - lower the party's numbers for one round, to then increase them by the number of caged prisoners the next. He didn't expect the multiple small cages, and again, the dice luck was terrible, foiling his attempts to free them.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Again, look at the XGtE at the Warlock of the Archfey.

11 HD. 1 6th level spell and 3 5th level slots. Clearly based upon an 11th level Warlock. CR 4. This reflects the modern valuation as applied in a recent book to the specific class in question, rather than the valuation placed at the start of the edition on 'monster' builds for other classes. As we posit that Lorenzo is 9th rather than 11th, CR 3 or 4 would seem to be appropriate. The Warlock of the Fiend has an error on the hit points, but it built off a 17th level warlock spellcaster. It is CR 7. Now, it is possible Lorenzo is 17th level - we saw nothing that ruled this out... but that seems unlikely.

Lorenzo is likely an oni - a CR 7 creature. The hints to this are compelling.

And as for your 'three strong', had Matt known that Not and Keg would be 'offline' for the combat, then you'd build for three PCs... but as far as he knew, he was building for 5. My point is that he built a reasonable, but tough, challenge. With surprise and good tactics, it was very winnable (assuming we have the right power levels for the bad guys in mind).

If they start with a stun, stab, and spell on Lorenzo, he likely never gets off a spell or attack (again, assuming he is ~9th level).

I actually don't disagree with that - except, I think, as already stated - Lorenzo was a higher CR than you are giving him. Had they been luckier on their rolls and had they been at full strength - well it may have been different. But that's not what happened and they lucky to have escaped as intact as they did.
 
Last edited:

jgsugden

Legend
Lorenzo is likely an oni - a CR 7 creature. The hints to this are compelling.
The persistent presence of illusions points towards either a 6th level spell slot for perm major image, or unlimited silent image - which matches up with a warlock with Misty Visions. I suppose the bard could have been using all of his spell slots to repeatedly cast silent image.... I guess... but ...

Matt called it arcane energy as well - something that hints at an arcane spellcaster. Nothing dispositive, but a Hexblade with a Glaive for a weapon seems far more likely.

Regardless, if Oni were released today, they'd likely have a lower CR. There is a lot of evidence that many of the monster manual CRs should be revised, but they can't for a variety of reasons (changing the CR of summonable monsters changes a lot of things, etc...).

All that matters: If the PCs used good tactics and had non-disastrous luck, would they have had a very good chance to win? The answer is yes. I'm not saying the players did anything wrong, here - just that Matt didn't either.
 

Dispater

Explorer
TPK would have ruined the storyline for the show. Matt was out to set an example (his NPC even said so). Thought it was handled well, regardless of rulings. Character death is what it is. Sets Loreenzo up as a major antagonist down the line. Totally worth the extra time!
 

Well, even if it was a "deadly" encounter, even significantly, that wouldn't mean that Matt did anything wrong. In CR Season 1, when the Chroma Conclave attacked all at once, that was an impossible battle. But it was meant to be. That doesn't make it wrong. Having a heavily one-sided encounter isn't a failing of the DM. There were multiple ways that the M9 could have pursued their quarry. Spying on them, sneaking into the camp at night to free the slaves, setting up a distraction, getting more people invested in taking out the slavers, etc. There are more ways to succeed than head-on battle-royale.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Well, even if it was a "deadly" encounter, even significantly, that wouldn't mean that Matt did anything wrong. In CR Season 1, when the Chroma Conclave attacked all at once, that was an impossible battle. But it was meant to be. That doesn't make it wrong. Having a heavily one-sided encounter isn't a failing of the DM. There were multiple ways that the M9 could have pursued their quarry. Spying on them, sneaking into the camp at night to free the slaves, setting up a distraction, getting more people invested in taking out the slavers, etc. There are more ways to succeed than head-on battle-royale.
Absolutely.

Heck, I started a campaign a years back (1st level characters) with a demigod waking up and rampaging through the city. The group had 0% of a head on confrontation. But they recognized that quickly and focused on mitigating the damage (putting out fires etc) , helping herd people out of the way, that sort of thing.

Worked great as a bonding exercise and to immediately show that direct confrontation isn't always the answer.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top